Freelancers, thank you for inviting me to visit with you today. This is quite a topic!
I’d like to share a little of my history so that you can understand why I would speak to this
topic. I have 20‐some years’ experience in marketing, sales, account management, and
proposal management. I’ve worked for and with companies of all sizes, all levels of
“maturity,” in various industries. Lots but not exclusive experience in the public sector.
After many happy and interesting years in the corporate world…along with several
reorganizations and lay‐offs…I decided to leap into working on my own. I launched Sequitur
Marketing early last year….and am still launching! Every day is a new experience and
adventure; it’s a great gig.
Our focus today is proposals but my experience in all those related areas has proven
invaluable. That’s an interesting, scary thing about proposals…whatever experience one
has, it can contribute to a good proposal.
Let’s take a look again at the title of this session….writing. “Writing” make us think of pen
to paper…the keyboard…outlines (maybe)…..grammar…..
But with a little thought most of us would agree that “writing” a proposal begins well
before the paper or the keyboard. So, when or where does the “writing” or the preparation
or the work begin? Too often, the work does not begin early enough.
I believe lack of advanced and on‐going preparation is at the root of most proposal anxiety,
errors, and losses. Not specific to freelancers or just entrepreneurs or small businesses but
to businesses of all varieties and people at all levels of experience.
The following is for you to consider in being prepared…….
WHAT IS A PROPOSAL?
So that we’re working from the same perspective, here’s what I mean by a proposal…let me
know your vision.
1. Not a quote, bid, information sheet, etc.
2. A proposal may be in response to
• a formal Request….a true RFP, detailed specs, etc. Competitive process.
• informal or even verbal request. Try to get at least informal specs noted in am email, etc.
May or may not be competitive.
• generated because you think (assume) it’s the next best step in the process, not a good
3. A proposal includes content + pricing and is developed for a specific customer for a
specific project or solution. Content sections may include:
• an executive summary
• solution/product overview
• provider company background + qualifications
• project plan or schedule
4. A proposal may become part of a contract.
1. This is good, general business practice, not just to guide you in putting together a
proposal. How does one know oneself? A little navel gazing and meditation can’t
2. But go back to your strategic plan or business plan or marketing plan. Two reasons a
well‐developed plan is important here….
• One, your plan should drive your go/no go decision. What?! Do we sometimes decline
to propose or bid? Absolutely. General rule….do not bid on what you cannot justify. The
best justification is that the work is a match in terms of your goals, vision, timing or
availability, skills (current or desired), and financial needs.
• I will note that especially for new businesses, soloprenuers, freelancers…. financial
need and to fill the time sheet may justify pursuing a project that is not obviously a
good match. But even in this situation, look for some valid way to tie to your
plan….develop a new and useful skill, prove yourself to a potential client, or establish
yourself in a new industry. Keep your eye on your plan.
• Two, your plan should include info that you will use in the proposal: corp info, product
descriptions, pricing models, competition…..which leads us to…
RESOURCES AND LIBRARY
You have many, many business resources on hand. Previous proposals, resumes, presentation notes. Be
intentional with these….build a resource library that you can refer to and pull from quickly and easily.
Develop a content library. Include standard content that you can adapt as needed. What to include will
vary but consider:
• Descriptions of the products (goods and services) you offer
• Success stories including client work
• Client reference info – company name, contact name and info, contract dates, contract value
• Templates (Word, etc.) for proposal cover, cover letter/letterhead, proposal body, pricing grid
• Photos, graphics, tables Standard pricing tables or models
• Standard resume and professional bio Basic agreement or contract
Document the name, contact info, and area of expertise for proven, reliable contractors. These
contractors can help you with the proposal and/or with project execution and/or with other aspects of
your business. What to include will vary; for my business I include:
• Writers Graphic designers
• Web site developers Photographers
• Printers Social media consultants
• Videographers Marketing and communications consultants
• Attorneys CPAs and bookkeepers
KNOW YOUR CLIENT
A successful proposal talks to and about the client. Establish a sincere relationship with the
client so that you understand the business. Gather as much info as you can as early as you
• Strengths, business advantages
• Other worries
• Budget: at least for the specific project and broader, if possible
• Buying roles: buyer, user, influencer, decider
• Competition (theirs)
ASSESS THE ENVIRONMENT
1. Albert Einstein said “The environment is everything that isn’t me.” For our purposes, I’d
focus that a bit on everything that isn’t me or my client directly but that has impact on
the client’s business. This can include:
• Industry requirements and challenges
• Competition….yours and your clients
• Economic conditions
• Political impact
• Prices of supplies, labor, shipping
2. If you are not researching and understanding these factors until you are developing the
proposal, you risk:
• Losing valuable time
• Providing an inadequate or incorrect response
• Pricing inappropriately
A PROPOSAL IS A PROJECT…MANAGE ACCORDINGLY
Proposals are too important not to manage their completion carefully. You are addressing a
client’s specific needs, speaking to details and specifications, providing your best pricing,
and often within in less time than you’d really like to have.
Get ahead of the fray and approach the proposal in an organized fashion. Prepare a
checklist template in advance. Include and prioritize the most important steps.
For example, something like this:
1. Requirements review
2. Go/no go decision
3. Plan details
• Tasks and assignments: content, pricing, proofing/editing, production, delivery
• Time line
• Resource needs
4. Work the plan
5. Fine tune as needed
CLIENT’S EVALUATION AND DECISION
Once the proposal is submitted, your work is not done. Stay connected to the client and
the decision‐making process:
1. Confirm receipt
2. Follow up pending decision
3. Address questions or changes
4. Demo or presentation
5. Award announcement
REPAIR – UPDATE ‐‐ BUILD
Each proposal completed is preparation for the next opportunity. Take advantage! Build your resources
and library through:
1. Post mortem, lessons learned – think through on your own, collaborate with partners and subs
2. Win or lose, get feedback from client
3. Updates to content, pricing models, resource lists, product ideas, your business plan….
• These points apply to any proposal and any one can implement these ideas
• You already have the foundation for following this model., so why not give it a try?
Noting to lose….The upfront and on‐going investment in time and planning will be
repaid in improved sales process, reduced anxiety, and higher quality proposals
• Better proposals lead are key to more wins and better project execution…more
referrals…more proposals. A GOOD cycle to work!